Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Holy People : Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending November 1, 2009

Purpose: To affirm that Christians are called to reflect God's holiness through loving attitudes and actions.

Scripture Text: I Peter 1:13-25 (NRSV)

I peter 1:13-25
(13)Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. (14)Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. (15)Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; (16) for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

(17)If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. (18)You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, (19)but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. (21)Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

(22)Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. (23)You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. (24)For
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
(25)but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
That word is the good news that was announced to you.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

The word “holiness,” when used to describe someone’s Christian discipline is almost a dirty word in some religious circles. To many it implies speaking in tongues or radical emotional behavior, which is not appreciated in many of our churches. When the Apostle Peter uses the word, he means wholeness or completion. The Greek word translated “holiness” literally means, “be all you can be.”

For centuries the word holiness has not necessarily meant Christians are to adhere to some strict moral code, but rather holiness is a joyful response to God's holiness. Christians are called as a people to reflect God's holiness in the community, and to be made whole and complete.

Peter tells us (verse 13) that the recipients of this letter are to fix their hope on the grace of Jesus Christ. We also are to prepare our minds for action. Our old desires should be replaced with a new desire to live a life that would make a parent proud, because we call God our Father. A holy God demands a holy people. Peter took the words Moses used for Israel (verse 16) and applies them to the church. If the church expects to be a powerful growing entity it must be “holy” or it may as well be any civic club or lodge. The one thing that should separate the church from the world is our reflection of God's holiness. "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

Verse 17 offers a unique way of looking at God's grace, that is, since the one we call Father is also our judge, we can live in hope. Who of us would not want to go before our earthly father to be judged? We would certainly live in hope that our father would be a fair and maybe even a partial judge. If we are obedient children we can enjoy a gracious relationship with our father. Our obedience is not out of fear, or a set of rules, but rather because we want to please both our earthly and our heavenly Father.

Verse 18 refers to the ransom paid by Jesus, through His blood, and not by trinkets, or treasure, but we are redeemed by the blood of the lamb. Just as the priest of Moses time used the blood of oxen and bulls, so now God has chosen to use the blood of His only Son to purchase the ransom price that sin as put on our heads.

Since we have been redeemed by the most Holy Son of God, again the call is for us to be holy also. The plan that God put into action was “destined before the foundation of the world, but has only been revealed at this time.” (My paraphrase)

Verse 21 tells us it is God's gift to us that allows us to have faith and trust in a risen savior. Faith and hope are not virtues we strive for, but are gifts of the grace of God. Because of our faith, we trust in God: we believe that the resurrection of Christ is a sign of God's power and love; and we share in the glory of the risen Christ. Because of hope we believe these wonderful things will be ours forever. Faith and hope have practical consequences and are revealed in obedience.

Verse 22 says we that have been ransomed have also been purified by our obedience to the truth of love and that includes the love of our fellow man and our community. Our purification comes from the living and enduring word of God. Because God has said He would do this for us, we can have confidence that it is true, the word of the Lord endures forever.”

When I think of holiness, I think of two people that had tremendous influence in my life, my uncle Lewis Walter and my father-in-law Dayton Korb. Both of these individuals lived lives of holiness, and set an example for me to strive for.

What is your definition of “holiness”? What do you think is the best way for you to reflect God's holiness? Who do you look to for an example of a Christian living a holy life?

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